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Producers Guild Preview and Predictions

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It wasn’t really until 2013 that anyone discussed this idea that Kathleen Kennedy, one of Hollywood’s most prolific and successful female producers, had not yet won an Oscar.

Kennedy’s been nominated for Producer on an Oscar Best Picture nominee nine times and has never won. She might have won for Schindler’s List but wasn’t one of the credited producers. She’s been working with Steven Spielberg since E.T. but has been nominated for producing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (the best film of that year),Seabiscuit and The Sixth Sense, in addition to having been nominated for E.T., The Color Purple, Munich, War Horse and now, Lincoln.

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Kennedy is one of those unsung women who secretly rule Hollywood but make their moves in the background, never really getting proper credit for their distinguished careers. But that doesn’t mean the PGA, all 4,700 of them, will even consider Kathleen Kennedy when they pick their favorite film of the year. I’ve never seen them vote that way, at any rate, like most large consensus votes they go with their heart.

The Producers Guild and the Academy are the only two large voting bodies that employ the preferential ballot to find their winner. The producers did this to match the Academy once they expanded Best Picture from five to ten.

Where a film like Moulin Rouge or Little Miss Sunshine could win with a more passionate vote with five nominees, passion doesn’t necessarily get you there with a preferential ballot. This is how The Hurt Locker, The King’s Speech and The Artist did so well with both the PGA and the Oscar.

It’s worth noting that these same films did well under a larger consensus vote where passion does come into play — the DGA, namely, and Oscar’s Best Director. We’ve had 100% match-ups since 2009.

The reason that most people are predicting Argo to win the PGA is that they all assume that’s the film carrying the buzz right now. They also believe that with George Clooney AND Ben Affleck on the ticket they can’t be beat. Argo is also extremely likable and has the least amount of “baggage” as the other nominees. It would follow in the “least offensive film wins” category of late.

Many people do believe that Argo is the best film of the year to boot. The PGA, like every other group except the SAG, arguably, vote on the movie they like best, not on level of difficulty. They tend to prefer movies that cost less and made more. They don’t seem to favor movies that cost a lot and didn’t make much money back. They don’t really consider things like honoring women or minorities with their votes — they simply see the movie, or the producer, they like best and go from there.

But just for the sake of it, let’s see what we can glean from the cost vs. profit of the films up for the big prize.

Lincoln cost: $65 million // BO so far: $161 million – $96
Les Miserables: $61 million // BO so far: $131 million – $78
Argo cost: $44 million // BO so far: $115 million – $71
Django Unchained cost: $100 million // BO so far: $139 million – $39 mil
Silver Linings Playbook cost: $21 million // BO so far: $58 million – $37
Zero Dark Thirty cost: $40 million // BO so far: $57 million – $17
Life of Pi cost: $120 million // BO so far: $100 million – -$20

(It’s worth noting that this week Life of Pi will surpass half a billion dollars worldwide, but we’re only looking at domestic since the rest of the contenders have yet to expand internationally.)

The other two, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour haven’t made much yet but cost practically nothing so they would not be part of the conversation, box office wise. Beasts has made around $11 million, just one mil shy of what The Hurt Locker made in 2009.

The numbers are one thing. The “Oscar story” is a different thing. When it comes to the “Oscar story” Lincoln has the others beat. Here is how Kathleen Kennedy describes her experience working on Lincoln:

It involves a huge amount of research. That’s probably what differentiates this from other projects I’ve worked on. We started the process almost 13 years ago. It was very much a part of our movie making process — that entire 13 years. Even though we weren’t in active pre-production for that entire 13 years, we were working on it constantly. … Ensuring that the movie was historically accurate became a huge focus to every single person involved in the movie.

It has been said that everyone in town knew that Spielberg and Kennedy were making Lincoln, going back a whole decade. It was kicking around and kicking around, researched, honed, carefully sculpted into the movie that it is today. This is perhaps why some of us feel a little more emotionally invested in this film than we do with many other films this year. Movies like this, projects like this, are extremely rare. Does that mean it WILL win? So far everyone seems to think no, it won’t win because it doesn’t have strong enough emotional support behind it. It has made almost $100 million dollars in profit, it went to the White House and the Senate, it is the crowning achievement of both Kennedy and Spielberg, it was endorsed by President Bill Clinton and yet, because some folks were bored it won’t be a film people throw awards at. If it were me, yeah, Lincoln would get every fucking award people could give it but I do not decide the Oscar race, I never have been.

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Right behind Lincoln is probably Argo, another story that was kicking around Hollywood forever as people mulled over getting it made. It landed in the hands of George Clooney who eventually got it to Ben Affleck who then turned it into the success that it is. It is also a crowdpleaser, meaning, audiences hang on the edge of their seat as it comes to a close, and it moves them emotionally by the end. It also has the likability factor of the stars involved — beloved George Clooney and of course, Ben Affleck who finally cashed the check on his directorial promise. Can Argo win? Can it ride the wave of sentiment supposedly generated by his directorial snub? Can it capture the zeitgeist and win the whole thing, making Academy history not once but twice? Only Driving Miss Daisy won without a director nomination (along with Wings, which I don’t count because it had only three nominations and Grand Hotel which happened so early in Academy history it can’t really be a precedent). Moreover, Argo is 4th or 5th in line in terms of nominations. The only movie that ever won at #4 was Chariots of Fire.

Silver Linings Playbook also has a bit of an Oscar story. According to Wikipedia, Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella were set to produce it but both have since died. Pollack gave the book to Russell who then wrote and rewrote the script over a five year period. Russell’s son, as far as I knew, had autism but now it’s said he has bi-polar and OCD (it’s possible he has all of the above). He’s never really been that specific about it but continues to say that he wrote the movie for his son. The movie was one of those created on the cutting room floor and was just barely ready when it showed at Cannes — the scrappy underdog that could is an irresistible meme in the Oscar race and Silver Linings will be the threepeat for The Weinstein Co in that vein. But more than its “Oscar story,” it’s really the only film in the lineup that can challenge Lincoln, numbers-wise. It is also the most feelgood, emotionally effective of the bunch, apparently. It has the NY Times’ Manohla Dargis beating the drum for it at the New York Times, which lends it credibility, and the actors liked it so much they gave it four nominations.

I really think Silver Linings is the biggest threat all around, at the PGA and the SAG and the Oscar. But nipping at its heels is Argo. Any ground gained by one seems to be canceled out by the other.

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Zero Dark Thirty was produced by Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal and Megan Ellison.  It was an incredibly difficult film to produce, as we can all now see — the filmmakers were and are dogged by the government, anti-torture activists and even film critics.  The film must now be called a success since it opened at number one.  Will the controversy affect its chances? It’s hard to say.  But it will get a significant number of votes as it is beloved and the best reviewed film of the year.

The nominees:
“Argo” (Warner Bros.) — Producers: Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Fox Searchlight Pictures) — Producers: Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey, Josh Penn
“Django Unchained” (The Weinstein Company) –Producers: Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher
“Les Misérables” (Universal Pictures) –Producers: Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh
Life of Pi” (Fox 2000 Pictures) –Producers: Ang Lee, Gil Netter, David Womark
“Lincoln” (Touchstone Pictures) –Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg
“Moonrise Kingdom” (Focus Features) –Producers: Wes Anderson & Scott Rudin, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales
“Silver Linings Playbook” (The Weinstein Company) — Producers: Bruce Cohen, Donna Gigliotti, Jonathan Gordon
“Skyfall” (MGM/Columbia Pictures) –Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
“Zero Dark Thirty” (Columbia Pictures) — Producers: Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Megan Ellison

What will probably win: Silver Linings Playbook
What might win: Argo
What should win: Lincoln

Animated:
The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:
“Brave” (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures) — Producer: Katherine Sarafian
“Frankenweenie” (Walt Disney Pictures) — Producers: Allison Abbate, Tim Burton
“ParaNorman” (Focus Features) — Producers: Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner
“Rise of the Guardians” (Paramount Pictures) — Producers: Nancy Bernstein, Christina Steinberg
“Wreck-It Ralph” (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures) — Producer: Clark Spencer

What will win: Wreck-it Ralph
What might win: Frankenweenie
What should win: Brave

Documentary:
“A People Uncounted” (Urbinder Films) — Producers: Marc Swenker, Aaron Yeger
“The Gatekeepers” (Sony Pictures Classics) — Producers: Estelle Fialon, Philippa Kowarsky, Dror Moreh
“The Island President” (Samuel Goldwyn Films) — Producers: Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen
“The Other Dream Team” (The Film Arcade) — Producers: Marius Markevicius, Jon Weinbach
“Searching For Sugar Man” (Sony Pictures Classics) –Producers: Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn

What will Win: The Gatekeepers
What might win: Searching for Sugarman
What should win: The Central Park Five, which isn’t nominated

The history:

Producers Guild | Best Picture
Won PGA | Won Oscar

2011

The Artist The Artist
The Help The Help
Midnight in Paris Midnight in Paris
The Ides of March Tree of Life
War Horse War Horse
The Descendants The Descendants
Bridesmaids
Hugo Hugo
Moneyball Moneyball
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

2010

The King’s Speech The King’s Speech
The Town Winter’s Bone
The Fighter The Fighter
The Social Network The Social Network
Benjamin Button Benjamin Button
Black Swan Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right The Kids Are All Right
Inception Inception
Toy Story 3 Toy Story 3
True Grit True Grit
127 Hours 127 Hours

2009

The Hurt Locker The Hurt Locker
Star Trek A Serious Man
An Education An Education
Avatar Avatar
District 9 District 9
Inglourious Basterds Inglourious Basterds
Precious Precious
Invictus The Blind Side
Up Up
Up in the Air Up in the Air

2008

Frost/Nixon Frost/Nixon
Milk Milk
The Dark Knight The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire
Benjamin Button Benjamin Button

2007

There Will Be Blood There Will Be Blood
Juno Juno
Diving Bell and Butterfly Atonement
No Country for Old Men No Country for Old Men
Michael Clayton Michael Clayton

2006

Babel Babel
The Departed The Departed
Dreamgirls Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen The Queen

 

2005

Crash Crash
Brokeback Mountain Brokeback Mountain
Capote Capote
Good Night, and Good Luck Good Night, and Good Luck
Walk the Line Munich

2004

Finding Neverland Finding Neverland
Million Dollar Baby Million Dollar Baby
The Aviator The Aviator
Sideways Sideways
The Incredibles Ray

2003

Seabiscuit Seabiscuit
Mystic River Mystic River
Master and Commander Master and Commander
ROTK ROTK
The Last Samurai Lost in Translation
Cold Mountain

2002

Adaptation The Pianist
Chicago Chicago
Gangs of New York Gangs of New York
Lord of the Rings: Two Towers Two Towers
My Big Fat Greek Wedding The Hours
Road to Perdition

2001

A Beautiful Mind A Beautiful Mind
The Lord of the Rings The Lord of the Rings
Harry Potter Gosford Park
Moulin Rouge Moulin Rouge
Shrek In the Bedroom

2000

Gladiator Gladiator
Almost Famous Traffic
Erin Brockovich* Erin Brockovich
Billy Elliot Chocolat
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon* Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

1999

The Cider House Rules The Cider House Rules
American Beauty American Beauty
The Insider The Insider
Being John Malkovich The Green Mile
The Hurricane The Sixth Sense

1998

Life Is Beautiful Life Is Beautiful
Shakespeare In Love Shakespeare In Love
Gods and Monsters The Thin Red Line
Waking Ned Devine Elizabeth
Saving Private Ryan Saving Private Ryan

1997

Titanic Titanic
Amistad The Full Monty
L. A. Confidential L. A. Confidential
As Good As It Gets As Good as it Gets
for Good Will Hunting Good Will Hunting

1996

Fargo Fargo
Shine Shine
Hamlet Secrets & Lies
The People vs. Larry Flynt Jerry Maguire
The English Patient The English Patient

1995

Leaving Las Vegas Babe
Dead Man Walking Braveheart
Apollo 13 Apollo 13
Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility
Il Postino Il Postino
The Bridges of Madison County
The American President

1994

EXACT MATCH

Four Weddings and a Funeral Four Weddings and a Funeral
Forrest Gump Forrest Gump
Quiz Show Quiz Show
Pulp Fiction Pulp Fiction
The Shawshank Redemption The Shawshank Redemption

1993

EXACT MATCH

The Fugitive The Fugitive
Schindler’s List Schindler’s List
The Remains Of the Day The Remains Of the Day
The Piano The Piano
In the Name Of the Father In the Name Of the Father

1992

A Few Good Men A Few Good Men
The Crying Game The Crying Game
Unforgiven Unforgiven
Scent Of a Woman Scent Of a Woman
Howards End Howards End

1991

The Silence Of the Lambs

The Silence Of the Lambs

1990

Dances With Wolves Dances With Wolves

1989

Driving Miss Daisy Driving Miss Daisy